This week I'm singing the praises of lactation consultants (LCs) and women who conquer breastfeeding hurdles in creative ways. These women (are there any guys who do this job?) are all about finding solutions to breastfeeding problems that might otherwise cause women to ditch breastfeeding and hit the bottle. LCs are breastfeeding specialists; usually (but not always) registered nurses and childbirth educators with extensive training and board certification. They're nursing women's "breast friends," working boob jobs to feed the masses. (Sorry, I had to get those puns off my chest). Some women are so lucky with breastfeeding they're probably shaking their heads right now and saying, "what's the big deal. Stick the baby on your boob and wait until they're done." The rest of us are saying, "we wish."
While Mother Nature was constructing her awesome design plan for feeding the species, she apparently didn't take into consideration problems like blisters, cracking and just plain not liking it. Mother Nature must have been in that first "what's the big deal" group.
Two readers have specific problems I'd like to address this week. Janet wants to know if she can breastfeed by exclusively pumping and feeding the baby in a bottle. She wants her family to share feedings and frankly doesn't like the idea of having her baby suck on her. She's been told she won't produce enough milk by pumping only.
I know, some of you out there are saying, "Geez, just give the baby a bottle then" or maybe, "once you try breastfeeding, you'll love it." To those women who are still judgmental about the right and wrong ways to breastfeed, I say, "knock it off." Until you've walked a mile in her bra, you don't get to spout off about how Janet should feed her baby. Janet wants her baby to get all the goods that breast milk has to offer and is looking for a creative solution to her uncomfortable feelings. Way to go, Janet. That's parenting outside the lines and I love it.
Yes, you can feed your baby breast milk by pump and bottle. Here's how: invest in the best electric breast pump you can afford. Many lactation clinics, maternity shops and hospital home health centers sell or rent them. In some states, women who get food stamps or public support can rent them for free. However you go about it, just get one. Then, starting as soon as you recover from delivery (we're talking within hours here, not days), start pumping for fifteen minutes on each breast every two to three hours around the clock. You'll initially get just a few teaspoons/tablespoons of colustrum but your milk will come in within a few days. After that, you need to keep up the round the clock pumping to build up your milk supply and keep up with baby's appetite. I strongly encourage you to establish a relationship with a lactation consultant to guide you. They'll tell you when to increase pumping to coincide with baby's growth spurts, whether you're getting enough milk and how to get more. You can definitely make this work, Janet. It will take time, dedication and determination but so does traditional breastfeeding. Good luck.
Michelle's been breastfeeding her son for four months now and has developed a painful blister on one of her nipples. Ouch. Poor Michelle. Here she is, doing her best to stick with breastfeeding and all of a sudden, sabotage! Her breasts are leading a revolt and making the experience suck. Here's a likely reason why you've developed a blister: Your baby is growing, wants more milk and is changing his suck strength and style to get it. His jaw is growing and he might even be getting bottom teeth that are scraping your nipple in just the wrong way. The solution: Change baby's feeding position so he applies pressure to other areas of the nipple. Feed him on the non-blistered breast first as that's the one he'll nurse most vigorously on when hungry. Allow plenty of air circulation around the affected nipple—yep, go topless or at least braless for a while after nursing. Buy some lanolin and apply it to your nipple after breastfeeding to keep it soft and moisturized. If this doesn't work, go buy some Duoderm hydrogel bandages at the drug store. Cut out just enough to cover the blister and apply it between feedings. This stuff is genius. It was originally created for burns but works really well for ouchy nipples too.
If putting the baby to the breast is just too painful, use a nipple shield or pump for a couple days (at least as often as you normally feed your baby) and give the milk to the baby in a bottle. This will allow your nipple to heal a little. Again, I recommend getting in touch with a lactation consultant. You'll love the support and guidance these ladies give especially when you may be thinking about giving up. Do everything you can, Michelle, to stick with it. The blister is temporary but the benefits of breastfeeding for at least a year are priceless.
Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.